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EU: Northern Cyprus

Volume 748: debated on Wednesday 16 October 2013

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the exclusion of those living in northern Cyprus from the benefits of that island’s membership of the European Union.

My Lords, we endorse the European Council conclusions of 2004 by which the Council undertook to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community, including through much needed assistance programmes. The best way for all Cypriots to enjoy the benefits of EU membership would be through a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem. We continue to support the leaders of both communities in their efforts to achieve this, and we hope that the UN-led negotiations will restart and succeed in the near future.

My noble friend will know that meat and dairy products are the economic mainstay of northern Cyprus, but they are banned from the EU simply because there is no recognised body in northern Cyprus to certify them as safe, although they are safe. Will the Government look at arranging some form of bilateral certification arrangement that would allow such products to be sold in the United Kingdom?

I cannot comment on my noble friend’s specific request, although if there is any ongoing work in the area of food, I will certainly write to him. As he will be aware, many of the rights and obligations that came with membership of the EU do not apply to the north of the island, but the EU has been working with representatives from the north to make sure that programmes are put in place for eventual reunification and membership of the EU.

My Lords, can the noble Baroness tell us how many Turkish Cypriot citizens are members of the European institutions—the Commission, the Parliament, and so on? If, as I suspect, the answer is zero, does she not agree that it is odd that people who are regarded as citizens of the European Union cannot be recruited to its institutions?

The noble Lord is aware of the ongoing challenges in the area. I presume that he is correct, but if he is not, I am sure that I will write to him with details of how many citizens from the north of the country are members of European Union institutions.

I come back to the basic point in this matter. The way to resolve these issues in the long run is by achieving a settlement. There is some hope for that. As noble Lords will recall, the current president, Nicos Anastasiades, was one of the few politicians who was supportive of the Annan plan during the 2004 referendum. There is therefore some hope that negotiations will resume and will proceed in a positive way.

My Lords, perhaps I may press my noble friend a little further on this. If, as she says, the United Kingdom as a guarantor power has a legal responsibility to recognise and support the Turkish Cypriot community, why does it appear that the EU border seems to end at the Green Line, so that 300,000 Turkish Cypriots are denied any fundamental rights under the European Union?

My noble friend is a real expert on these issues so I shall not seek to question her assertions, but she will be aware that the European Commission directly implements aid programmes in the north of the country. These social, economic and development programmes are specifically for the Turkish Cypriot community. She will also be aware that if Turkish Cypriots take Republic of Cyprus passports, they can access some of the wider benefits that come with EU membership.

My Lords, does the Minister think there is a measure of inconsistency in, on the one hand, encouraging the Cypriots to reunite while at the same time asking the Scots people perhaps to break up the United Kingdom?

I do not think that this Government are encouraging the Scots not to stay part of the United Kingdom. The noble Lord will be aware that we on this side of the House, and indeed noble Lords on all sides, firmly believe that we are better together.